Vitaly was born and raised in Communist Leningrad, USSR. Marxism-Leninism was the main religion of the day, both for him and his peers. Russian schools were full of Communist propaganda. Growing up in this atmosphere, Vitaly became a follower of the system. By the age of 16, Vitaly was already a member of the regional Komsomol group (Communist Youth League).
Starting with the perestroika of 1986, drastic changes occurred in the Soviet Union. The “strongest country in the world” dissolved in 1991, and without moving to another location Vitaly became a citizen of St. Petersburg, Russia. In May of 1994 Vitaly was working as a teacher in one of the local high schools. It was at that time he met a born-again believer for the first time in his life. A Canadian evangelistic team of schoolteachers came to share their teaching skills with Russian colleagues. The team witnessed to Vitaly and other teachers and brought them to a newly established Baptist church. It was started by an American missionary named Charles Hoblitz. It was then that Vitaly finally came to an understanding of the sacrificial gift of Christ’s death for his sins Since then, Christ began to gradually take total control of Vitaly's life.
After Vitaly decided to go to the United States to learn more about the Word of God, the Lord used local missionaries in St. Petersburg to buy him a ticket and to provide additional funds to help him on the way. It was truly a provision from God, as with an average Russian salary of about $30 a month Vitaly could never even dream of buying a ticket and flying to America. That first year at Word of Life Bible Institute was filled with the joys of grasping what he desired to learn – the Word of God.
The following four years at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary were filled with the same joys of spiritual growth and grounding in the Scriptures. While in the seminary, he completely devoted himself to his studies and ministry in the church. The last two years were a little different. At that time Vitaly was already thinking of going back. Now that the Lord allowed him to learn His Word, it seemed quite natural to go back to his country and proclaim it to his people in their own language. God gave Vitaly a desire to follow Him in His calling to St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1998 Vitaly began deputation to raise the necessary support for missionary work in Russia.
At the same time Vitaly had an opportunity to go to the country of Ukraine with a team of professors teaching at the seminary in Kiev. This trip turned out to be another important step in Vitaly’s life as well as in the life of a beautiful Christian girl, Alexandra. A year and a half later they were happily married.
Alexandra comes from the country of Ukraine, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union (After the break-up of the USSR, Ukraine became a separate independent country). Alexandra was born to a Christian family at the time when believers were persecuted for their faith. She remembers growing up in a situation when Sunday services were held secretly deep in the woods far away from the eyes of police. In spite of all the precautionary measures, many Christian gatherings were disrupted by the police, preachers were hunted down and all participating believers were fined with a penalty of a month’s salary. All Christian literature was confiscated.
Alexandra is the oldest of six children in the family. The faith of her parents and grandparents became her own saving faith at a very young age. Alexandra considers her grandmother to be the one who had the greatest impact in her decision for Christ. She feels very privileged to serve the Lord as a missionary in Russia, even though she misses Ukraine.
Vitaly and Alexandra returned to Russia on June 13, 2000, for the ministry of church planting. September 2000 marks the birth of New Life Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, Russia. The Kellers’ plans include planting of other indigenous independent fundamental Baptist churches in the country of Russia. Their ministry also includes training other national church planters. As a family, their greatest desire is to be pleasing to their Lord and Savior and to be sensitive to His leading throughout their lives.
Vitaly’s favorite verse is found in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth....”
If you are interested in receiving updates from the Kellers, please contact the BIEM office at email@example.com or 317-718-1633.